ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary body has asked the ministry of information technology (IT) to review its proposed registration system for mobile phones so as to allow people coming from abroad to bring more than one device for personal use in a year.
“It is illogical to ask passengers arriving in Pakistan to register mobile phones which they have brought as gift or for their personal use,” said PPP’s Senator Rubina Khalid, who heads the Senate Standing Committee on information technology and telecommunications, at a briefing on Wednesday.
“This is harassment. It should be done away with,” Senator Rehman Malik suggested. The committee discussed measures to streamline the process for collection of tax on mobile phones at airports.
In May last year, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) had launched a Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS) mechanism to counter the spread of sub-standard, smuggled phones.
Later the PTA announced that its long-anticipated DIRBS would become functional on Oct 20, after which all unregistered mobile phones would become unusable.
But since then the Senate committee on IT has directed the ministry a number of times to keep its implementation on hold.
In October, the committee had directed the PTA to postpone the implementation of the phone registration system, describing the exercise as an overwhelming undertaking as it was difficult for people to understand and comply with. “This system is too confusing for the highly educated to wrap their heads around. We cannot imagine how those who are not educated will understand it,” Rubina Khalid had said then.
Nevertheless, the PTA issued a statement that it intended to go ahead with the mobile registration system from Dec 1. Upon pressure from the committee, the ministry extended the phone registration date for individuals carrying phones from 30 days to 60.
The meeting was informed that with the implementation of DIRBS, individuals coming from abroad could bring only one handset into the country and they would have to pay tax on additional sets.
Senator Mian Muhammad Ateeq Shaikh of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement asked the IT ministry to differentiate between smuggling and individuals bringing phones for personal use. He said only two countries in the world had such a system and it was not an impracticable system.
Senator Faisal Javed of PTI spoke in favour of the system, saying it was for the “greater good”.
“However, the system of registering phones should be simplified without causing inconvenience to the people,” Faisal Javed said.
The meeting was informed that since January, individuals coming from abroad had applied for registration of 34,000 mobile phones. Out of these, 116 individuals paid taxes on extra handsets amounting to Rs1.5 million.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2019